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TOPIC: syria

FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Who Is Putin? The Long And Subtle Manipulation Of A Public Biography

Even Russians are unlikely to have noticed that over the 23 years of Vladimir Putin's presidency, the biography the Kremlin presents of him has been repeatedly altered. Having recently celebrated his 70th birthday, Proekt reveals details of how the authorities have hidden facts and evidence about Putin's life and his relationship with his family and friends — and the Russian people.

In January and February 2000, Russia was one of the main topics at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Specifically, the change of power in Moscow, where former KGB officer Vladimir Putin, heralded as Boris Yeltsin’s successor, was preparing for his first presidential election.

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"Who is Mr. Putin?" the American journalist Trudy Rubin asked the Russian delegation. Anatoly Chubais and Sergei Kiriyenko, leaders of the now-defunct, center-right SPS party, looked at each other but couldn't answer. Neither could then-Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov. The audience laughed, but the situation was difficult. The country of 146 million people had been entrusted to a man whom few people knew, either in Russia or abroad.

Just weeks later, Trudy Rubin would get an answer to her question, with the publication of First Person, a compilation of more than 24 hours worth of interviews with Putin by Natalia Gevorkian, a journalist at Kommersant. The book—solicited by Valentin Yumashev, Boris Yeltsin’s Chief of Staff—came out just in time for the Russian presidential election.

The book was partly personal, with fragments about Putin’s daughters and quotes from his wife Lyudmila Putina. In it, she recalls seeing her future husband for the first time. "Volodya (Putin) was standing on the steps of this cash register. He was very modestly dressed; I would even say poor. He was very plain, and I would not have noticed him on the street,” describes Putina.

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This Happened—November 6: Raqqa Revisited

At the height of the Syrian Civil War, a group of forces came together to reclaim the northern region of Raqqa from the Islamic State. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who were largely comprised of Kurdish fighters, led the offensive.

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How An Erdogan-Assad Truce Could Trigger A New Migrant Crisis At Europe's Border

In Turkey, resentment against Syrian refugees is growing. And President Erdogan – once their patron – is now busy seeking good relations with the man the Syrians fled, the dictator Bashar al-Assad.

ISTANBUL — At some point, they'd simply had enough. Enough of the hostilities, the insecurity, the attacks. In a group on the messenger service Telegram, Syrians living in Turkey called for a caravan – a march to the Turkish-Greek border, and then crossing into the European Union.

Tens of thousands of users are now following updates from the group, in which the organizers are asking Syrian refugees in Arabic to equip themselves with sleeping bags, tents, life jackets, drinking water, canned food and first aid kits. The AFP news agency spoke to an organizer who wants to remain anonymous because of possible reprisals. "We will let you know when it's time to leave," said the 46-year-old Syrian engineer.

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Of Rats And Men

Our Naples-based psychiatrist remembers a 2019 conversation with a patient on the geopolitics of pest control.

"Carmela, how long did you have to fight rats entering your house?"

"Eh, Dottoré, for years!"

"And how did end up solving it?"

"I adopted three cats that were in my street!"

"And then what happened?"

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In The News
Lisa Berdet, Chloé Touchard, Lila Paulou and Bertrand Hauger

Ukraine’s Double Anniversary, U.S. Strikes In Syria, Pub Extinction

👋 Jó napot!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Ukraine celebrates Independence Day exactly six months into the war with Russia, the U.S. military targets militia-held areas in eastern Syria, and it may be “last orders” time for a great many UK pubs. Meanwhile, São Paulo-based Agência Pública uncovers efforts by Trump supporters to get Jair Bolsonaro reelected in Brazil.

[*Hungarian]

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Geopolitics
Carolina Drueten, Christine Kensche

Erdogan's Opening? Why Turkey Sees Ukraine War As A Chance To Target Kurds In Syria

As the leaders of Turkey, Iran and Russia meet to discuss the situation in Syria, the West is closely watching Turkish President Erdoğan's moves on Kurdish separatists in northern Syria, now that Moscow is focused on Ukraine.

-Analysis-

It wasn't long ago that Moscow dictated what happened in Syria. Vladimir Putin has been the most important ally of Syria's regime, which would have likely collapsed long ago without Russia's support.

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But the war in Ukraine has shifted the political balance in the region — and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan can see his chance.

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In The News
Joel Silvestri, McKenna Johnson, Lila Paulou, Lisa Berdet and Anne-Sophie Goninet

Putin Declares Victory In Luhansk, July 4 Shooting, Dry Italy

👋 નમસ્તે!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where Putin declares victory in Luhansk, a 22-year-old man is arrested in connection with the July 4 Parade shooting that killed six north of Chicago, and New Zealand is batting for equal pay. Meanwhile, from Dijon mustard to potatoes by way of pasta, we look at food shortages around the world.

[*Namaste - Gujarati, India]

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In The News
Lisa Berdet, Lila Paulou, Joel Silvestri and Anne-Sophie Goninet

The Battle For Severodonetsk, Iran Raises Nuclear Eyebrows, Paula Rego Dies

👋 Aniin!*

Welcome to Thursday, where heavy fighting and shelling rock eastern Ukraine, Germany calls out Iran for its nuclear ambitions, and the art world mourns the passing of “visceral” painter Paula Rego. Meanwhile, our This Happened video format explores one of the most iconic photographs of the Vietnam War, which just turned 50.

[*Ojibwe - Canada]

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Geopolitics
Ahmad Ra'fat

Why Ukraine War Won't Slow Iran's Quest To Become A Nuclear Power

A new round of comments from inside Iran's leadership ranks reaffirms its intention to produce a nuclear bomb, a decades-long cat and mouse game between the regime and an ever cautious West that hasn't seemed to change even as the Russia-Ukraine war brings in a new world order.

-OpEd-

Ali Mottahari, a former deputy-speaker of the Iranian Parliament, recently revealed that "right from the start of our nuclear activity, our aim was to build a bomb and strengthen our deterrent force. But we couldn't keep this a secret." It appeared he was admitting to what regional and Western states have long suspected and Iran's regime denies — that it wants to make nuclear bombs.

Mottahari's father, Morteza Mottahari, was a prominent theologian and confidante of the late revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. This has allowed his son to speak with relative freedom under the Islamic Republic. In comments to a local press outlet broadcast on April 22, Mottahari blamed the Mujahedin-e Khalq, a Marxist opposition group, for revealing Iran's supposed nuclear plans.

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Migrant Lives
Marie-Luise Goldmann

Ukrainians In 2022 vs. Syrians In 2015, Why Some Refugees Get A Warmer Welcome

As people open their homes to Ukrainian refugees, some in Germany and elsewhere in Europe are criticizing the lack of a similar welcome for Syrians in 2015. Do we have a responsibility to offer the same level of help to all those in need — and are we even capable of that? The answer might just be found in philosophy.

-Essay-

BERLIN — The war in Ukraine has moved many to open their homes to refugees, but this warm welcome has also sparked criticism, with some asking why so many Germans are now happy to have a Ukrainian under their roof when they wouldn’t have done the same for a Syrian in 2015.

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There are many reasons for this. Nigerian author Ayo Sogunro tweeted, “Can't get it out of my head that Europe cried about a 'migrant crisis' in 2015 against 1.4 million refugees fleeing war in Syria and yet quickly absorbed some 2 million Ukrainians within days, complete with flags and piano music. Europe never had a migrant crisis. It has a racism crisis."

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Geopolitics
Vincent Desportes*

The U.S. Has Quietly Told Europe It Won't Fight On Its Behalf Again

It went largely unnoticed, but Washington's refusal to let MiG fighter jets destined for the Ukrainians take off from their base in Germany is a clear message, according to a retired French general: Even if a NATO country is attacked, the U.S. will never send their soldiers to fight on our soil.

-OpEd-

PARIS — With its back to the wall, America's mask has come off. This great nation, which 80 years ago stood at the height of its moral strength, which claims to be the bulwark of freedom and democracy, has lowered its head in the face of the challenge.

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We, the people of Europe, believed in her. During the Cold War, the U.S. military trained every year to rapidly deploy tens of thousands of soldiers from American soil to hold back Soviet forces.

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Geopolitics
Ofer Laszewicki*

Syria, The Laboratory For Putin's Brutality In Ukraine

Putin is increasing his attacks on Ukrainian civilians and may be preparing to use chemical weapons. But these horrific tactics are not new — they were perfected by the Russian army during a brutal war in Syria.

As he walked the apocalyptic streets of Kharkiv last week, BBC correspondent Quentin Sommerville cited what he called the "Russian attack playbook." Indeed, the shattered city in northeastern Ukraine evokes the destruction of the Syrian city of Aleppo.

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The scenes are strikingly similar: at the local hospital, aware that they could be the next target, medical workers pile injured children and women into the corridors. The beds by the windows would be deadly in the event of an attack.

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